As 2014 draws to a close we wanted to honour some of the inspirational individuals that rose above the political tensions that divide Jews and Muslims and extended a hand of friendship.
8. The Muslim that cleaned the graves of his Jewish friend’s family for 70 years
Lahcen, a man from Arazan a small Berber village in southern Morocco, has kept a promise for over 70 years to clean the grave of his Jewish friend’s family.
In the early 1950s, Moshe, a Moroccan Jew, and his family fled Morocco for Israel. Before fleeing Moshe asked his friend, Lahcen, to take care of the graves of his ancestors. Despite his meagre resources, at the beginning of each year Lahcen buys a small box of black paint and re-writes the names on the graves in Hebrew. Incredibly he had never been to school, yet was able to write the names in an alien tongue and loyally honour his friend’s request.
Whenever someone dares to say “Lahcen, you are now old, and you have done enough to honour your promise”, Lahcen angrily replies “A promise is a promise. I will continue to do what I have to do… until the return of my friend Moshe… or until I die”.
The guardian of the synagogue
But Lahcen isn’t the only Muslim to honour Arazan’s Jewish history. Harim Hadad, another elderly Muslim was entrusted with the key to the synagogue in 1962 by the last Jew to leave the village. The Jew instructed Harim that “If a Jew comes, and he asks for the synagogue, bring him this key”.
45 years later a Jewish tour guide visited Arazan and the story goes that upon his arrival Harim, who had been watching over the building for 45 years, asked “What took you so long?” and handed him the key to the synagogue, unable to unlock the door the guide asked Harim if he could, but Harim replied that the guide should open it as “he is the Jew who came”.
Arazan’s story is not unusual for Morocco, which stands as a bold example of how the bond between Jews and Muslims can withstand the tensions modernity has forced upon them.